BOSTON - They drew a near-sellout crowd at TD Banknorth Garden for Friday's preseason game between the Celtics and Knicks. Amazing, when you consider that on this same night, the beloved Red Sox played Game 2 of the ALDS in Anaheim. But then again, they're playing for a title here.
In New York, with the Yankees in the playoffs and the Jets and Giants off to great starts, the Knicks and their Mission 2010 hardly register within the buzz. Maybe being under the radar is not such a bad thing for a team in the midst of a massive rebuild.
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"Can we keep that all year?" coach Mike D'Antoni said with a grin.
But even low expectations eventually will meet scrutiny, which is why in 2009 B.L. (Before LeBron), developing the team's young talent is such a critical part of this season. It is why D'Antoni decided to insert 21-year-old Danilo Gallinari and 22-year-old Wilson Chandler into the starting lineup against one of the NBA's elite.
D'Antoni, who already has promoted Gallinari's importance to the team's success this season, said Friday that he expects "a big bump up" from Chandler, who averaged 14.4 points per game last season, his second in the NBA.
"He has unlimited talent and unlimited ability," D'Antoni said. "He's learning the game and he's getting more comfortable as he goes along. We're expecting him to keep progressing, and where his limit is, I don't know where it is. I think he'll have a better year than last year, that's safe to say."
Chandler, who had surgery in June to remove bone spurs in his left ankle, says the confidence shown in him "motivates me to be a great player."
Notes & quotes: Kevin Garnett, who is making a comeback from a knee injury that forced him to miss the entire 2009 postseason for the Celtics, played 15:05 in the first half and had six points and five rebounds . . . Eddy Curry did not make the trip and remained at the MSG Training Center, where he worked with the team's strength coach. "He would get the best treatment and training there," said D'Antoni, who added that to allow Curry to travel with the team "would be counterproductive." . . . The Knicks scored only eight points in the first quarter and shot 3-for-22 from the field.